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Türkiye urged to reverse decision ditching women’s rights accord

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Photo credit: haberler.com

Türkiye’s decision to ditch a landmark international treaty to tackle violence against women and girls, could significantly set back efforts to tackle the problem, top UN-appointed independent rights expert said on Wednesday.

The warning from UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, follows President Recep Erdogan’s announcement in March last year that Türkiye was pulling out of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, effective 1 July.

The accord is better known as the Istanbul Convention, after the Turkish city where it opened for signatures in 2011.

1 in 4 abused

Officially, around one in four women in Türkiye has suffered physical or sexual abuse by their partners, according to latest available government data from a 2014 survey, the Special Rapporteur said in a statement.

There are also likely “hundreds of femicides” every year, she continued, pointing to serious underreporting of the issue, which was owing to a lack of confidence in protection mechanisms, widespread impunity and gender-related bias and discrimination.

The problem has also been compounded by increasing economic hardship and the cost of hosting close to four million refugees, mostly Syrians under temporary protection, the Special Rapporteur said.

Conventional stance

In a statement, the rights expert added that “almost all stakeholders” she had met in Türkiye during her just-finished official visit had unequivocally recognised the importance of the Convention in combating violence against women and girls.

Ms. Alsalem, who was appointed by and reports to the Human Rights Council in July last year, insisted that the Istanbul Convention was also “intrinsically linked” to Türkiye’s “identity, aspirations, and its destined role and standing regionally and beyond”.

For those reasons, the Special Rapporteur urged the Government to “reconsider” its decision to pull out of the Convention and continue to uphold its other international human rights obligations.

Plea for progress

The Special Rapporteur insisted that implementation of domestic Turkish legislation protecting women from abuse “had been weakened by Türkiye’s withdrawal from the (Istanbul) Convention, including …services currently in place for survivors of gender-based violence”.

Perpetrators had also been “emboldened” by the presidential announcement, effectively leaving victims “at increased risk of violence”, she warned.

No society can truly prosper unless its woman and girls enjoy equality and freedom from violence,” Ms. Alsalem said. “All stakeholders I met agreed that violence against women and girls has no place in Turkish society. Türkiye must therefore translate this belief into practice, by tackling impunity and prioritising the issue of violence against women and girls at the highest levels.”

Progress elsewhere

Outside the specific sphere of gender-based violence, Ms. Alsalem said that Türkiye had made “considerable progress” towards sustainable development goals, by taking fundamental steps towards eradicating poverty and increasing support for marginalised and disadvantaged sections of society, including women and girls. 

Independent experts like Ms. Alsalem are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine thematic and country situations, and to report back on them. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

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Substantial progress made in Vienna; sides focusing on Safeguards

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image source: Tehran Times

The third day of talks between experts from Iran and the EU centered around technical and legal matters regarding the Safeguards agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Delegates from Iran, the EU and the U.S. resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday after nearly a five-month hiatus. This round of talks started on Thursday without the presence of nuclear negotiators from the European trio – Germany, France and Britain. Only experts from these three countries have attended the negotiations.  

Iran believes that any agreement on restoring the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is dependent on putting an end to unsubstantiated allegations about Iran’s past nuclear program. Iran insists that these questions had already been resolved within the PMD, when the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015.

According to reports, substantial progress has been made in bringing the views of Iran and the U.S. closer together during the last three days. However, in Tehran’s view nothing is resolved until everything is settled.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), also confirmed on Saturday that talks are mainly focused on Safeguards issues.

“We are now negotiating,” Kamalvandi said of the talks between Iran’s nuclear experts with Mora.

On the atmosphere of the talks, he said, “It is not bad.”

Mohammad Marandi, a senior expert on nuclear issues, also told Al-Mayadeen TV that “progresses” have been made in Vienna, but one should be “cautious”. He argued the success of talks is 50 percent. Marandi said the differences remain only between Iran and the United States.

He added, “We have heard from certain European sources that the Americans have revived their views on certain issues.”

The Russian chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted that there is “no unresolvable issue” on the table in the Vienna talks.

Source: Tehran Times

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Escalation of violence in Gaza

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Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike (file photo) UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

The ongoing and serious escalation of violence in and around Gaza between Palestinian militants and Israel has claimed the lives of 13 Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes, including a 5-year-old child and one woman, informed Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the territory.

In a statement published on Saturday, Ms. Hastings expressed her grave concern for the situation that has left more than 100 Palestinians injured, as well as 7 Israelis.

Residential areas in both Gaza and Israel have also been hit and 31 families in Gaza are now homeless.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation.   The hostilities must stop to avoid more deaths and injuries of civilians in Gaza and Israel. The principles of international humanitarian law including those of distinction, precaution and proportionality must be respected by all parties”, she urged.

Basic services in danger

Ms. Hastings warned that fuel for the Gaza Power Plant is due to run out this Saturday and electricity has already been cut.

“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk”, she cautioned.

The Humanitarian Coordinator added that movement and access of humanitarian personnel, for critical medical cases, and for essential goods, including food and fuel into Gaza, must not be impeded so that humanitarian needs can be met. 

She also underscored that Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must immediately allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel in accordance with international principles.

“I reiterate the United Nations Special Coordinator’s appeal on all sides for an immediate de-escalation and halt to the violence, to avoid destructive ramifications, particularly for civilians”, Ms. Hastings concluded.

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Nuclear-free world is possible, test-ban treaty chief says

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Nuclear weapons will continue to pose a risk to humanity unless countries fully adhere to the treaty that prohibits their testing, a senior UN official said at a press conference in New York on Friday. 

Journalists were briefed by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the body that oversees the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago but has yet to enter into force because it requires ratification by a handful of key countries, which have nuclear capabilities. 

“Once in force, the CTBT will serve as an essential element of a nuclear weapons-free world. In order to achieve this world, we all aspire to, a universal and effectively verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is a fundamental necessity,” he said. 

World at risk 

Mr. Floyd was speaking against the backdrop of the latest nuclear non-proliferation conference, which began this week at UN Headquarters after two years of pandemic-related delays. 

Countries are reviewing progress towards implementing the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

At the opening on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, away from nuclear annihilation”

“Until we have full adherence to the CTBT, nuclear testing and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will continue to pose unacceptable risk to humanity,” said Mr. Floyd. 

Drop in testing 

The CTBT complements the non-proliferation treaty, said Mr. Floyd, and it has already made a difference in the world. 

“We’ve gone from over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1996, to fewer than 12 tests since the treaty opened for signature,” he said. “Only one country has tested this millennium.” 

The treaty has also received near-universal support. So far, 186 countries have signed the CTBT, and 174 have ratified it, four in the last six months alone.  

However, entry into force requires that the treaty must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify it: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States. 

Asked about these countries, Mr. Floyd replied “they have their own calculus and strategic objectives and geopolitical considerations as to whether they feel free to move forward”, adding that they all support the CTBT and its objectives. 

Helping nations 

Mr. Floyd also reported on the activities of the organization that promotes the treaty, which he heads. 

The CTBTO, as it has known, has built a state-of-the-art verification system to detect nuclear explosions, capable of 24/7 monitoring.  

Staff also train inspectors from Member States so that they are ready to conduct on-site verifications once the treaty enters into force. Furthermore, countries use CTBTO data for civilian and scientific applications, such as tsunami warning systems and other university research. 

“Even without having entered into force, the CTBT is already helping to save lives in countries around the world,” said Mr. Floyd.  “Even those that have not yet ratified the treaty are benefiting from this global collaboration and technological expertise.” 

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